William Makepeace Thackeray.

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ladies a present, and accordingly produced the sum of
sixpence to be divided amongst the three. 'What will
you do with it ? ' I said, laying down the coin.

They answered, all three at once, and in a little
chorus, * We'll give it to Mother.' This verdict caused


the disbursement of another sixpence, and it was
explained to them that the sum was for their own
private pleasures, and each was called upon to declare
what she would purchase.

Elizabeth says, * I would like twopenn'orth of meat,
if you please, sir.'

'Melia : * Ha'porth of treacle, three-farthings'-worth
of milk, and the same of fresh bread.'

Victoria, speaking very quick, and gasping in an
agitated manner : c Ha'pny aha orange, and ha'pny

aha apple, and ha'pny aha treacle, and and '

here her imagination failed her. She did not know
what to do with the rest of the money.

At this 'Melia actually interposed, ' Suppose she and
Victoria subscribed a farthing apiece out of their money,
so that Betsy might have a quarter of a pound of meat ? '
She added that her sister wanted it, and that it would
do her good. Upon my word, she made the proposal
and the calculations in an instant, and all of her own
accord. And before we left them, Betsy had put on
the queerest little black shawl and bonnet, and had
a mug and a basket ready to receive the purchases in

Sedan Buildings has a particularly friendly look to me
since that day. Peace be with you, O thrifty, kindly,
simple, loving little maidens ! May their voyage in life
prosper ! Think of the great journey before them, and
the little cock-boat manned by babies venturing over the
great stormy ocean.


FOLLOWING the steps of little Betsy with her mug and
basket, as she goes pattering down the street, we watch
her into a grocer's shop, where a startling placard with


* DOWN AGAIN ! ' written on it announces that the
Sugar Market is still in a depressed condition and where
she no doubt negotiates the purchase of a certain quantity
of molasses. A little further on in Lawfeldt Street, is
Mr. Filch's fine silversmith's shop, where a man may
stand for a half-hour and gaze with ravishment at the
beautiful gilt cups and tankards, the stunning waist-
coat-chains, the little white cushions laid out with
delightful diamond-pins, gold horseshoes and splinter-
bars, pearl owls, turquoise lizards and dragons, enamelled
monkeys, and all sorts of agreeable monsters for your
neckcloth. If I live to be a hundred, or if the girl of my
heart were waiting for me at the corner of the street, I
never could pass Mr. Filch's shop without having a
couple of minutes' good stare at the window. I like to
fancy myself dressed up in some of the jewellery. * Spec,
you rogue,' I say, * suppose you were to get leave to
wear three or four of those rings on your fingers; to
stick that opal, round which twists a brilliant serpent
with a ruby head, into your blue satin neckcloth ; and
to sport that gold jack-chain on your waistcoat. You
might walk in the Park with that black whalebone
prize riding-whip, which has a head the size of a snuff-
box, surmounted with a silver jockey on a silver race-
horse ; and what a sensation you would create, if you
took that large ram's horn with the cairngorm top out
of your pocket, and offered a pinch of rappee to the
company round ! ' A little attorney's clerk is staring in
at the window, in whose mind very similar ideas are
passing. What would he not give to wear that gold pin
next Sunday in his blue hunting neckcloth ? The ball
of it is almost as big as those which are painted over the
side door of Mr. Filch's shop, which is down that passage
which leads into Trotter's Court.

I have dined at a house where the silver dishes and
covers came from Filch's, let out to their owner by Mr.
Filch for the day, and in charge of the grave-looking


man whom I mistook for the butler. Butlers and
ladies'-maids innumerable have audiences of Mr. Filch in
his back-parlour. There are suits of jewels which he and
his shop have known for a half-century past, so often
have they been pawned to him. When you read in the
Court Journal of Lady Fitzball's head-dress of lappets
and superb diamonds, it is because the jewels get a day
rule from Filch's, and come back to his iron box as soon
as the Drawing-room is over. These jewels become
historical among pawnbrokers. It was here that Lady
Prigsby brought her diamonds one evening of last year,
and desired hurriedly to raise two thousand pounds upon
them, when Filch respectfully pointed out to her Lady-
ship that she had pawned the stones already to his
comrade, Mr. Tubal, of Charing Cross. And, taking
his hat, and putting the case under his arm, he went
with her Ladyship to the hack-cab in which she had
driven to Lawfeldt Street, entered the vehicle with her,
and they drove in silence to the back entrance of her
mansion in Monmouth Square, where Mr. Tubal's
young man was still seated in the hall, waiting until her
Ladyship should be undressed.

We walked round the splendid shining shop and down
the passage, which would be dark but that the gas-lit
door is always swinging to and fro, as the people who
come to pawn go in and out. You may be sure there is a
gin-shop handy to all pawnbrokers'.

A lean man in a dingy dress is walking lazily up and
down the flags of Trotter's Court. His ragged trousers
trail in the slimy mud there. The doors of the pawn-
broker's, and of the gin-shop on the other side, are
banging to and fro : a little girl comes out of the former
with a tattered old handkerchief, and goes up and gives
something to the dingy man. It is ninepence, just raised
on his waistcoat. The man bids the child to * cut away
home,' and when she is clear out of the court, he looks
at us with a lurking scowl and walks into the gin-shop


doors, which swing always opposite the pawnbroker's

Why should he have sent the waistcoat wrapped in that
ragged old cloth ? Why should he have sent the child
into the pawnbroker's box, and not have gone himself ?
He did not choose to let her see him go into the gin-
shop why drive her in at the opposite door ? The
child knows well enough whither he is gone. She
might as well have carried an old waistcoat in her hand
through the street as a ragged napkin. A sort of vanity,
you see, drapes itself in that dirty rag ; or is it a kind of
debauched shame, which does not like to go naked ?
The fancy can follow the poor girl up the black alley, up
the black stairs, into the bare room, where mother and
children are starving, while the lazy ragamuffin, the
family bully, is gone into the gin-shop to * try our
celebrated Cream of the Valley,' as the bill in red
letters bids him.

{ I waited in this court the other day,' Whitestock
said, 'just like that man, while a friend of mine went in
to take her husband's tools out of pawn an honest man
a journeyman shoemaker, who lives hard by.' And
we went to call on the journeyman shoemaker Randle's
Buildings two-pair back over a blacking manufactory.
The blacking was made by one manufacturer, who stood
before a tub stirring up his produce, a good deal of which
and nothing else was on the floor. We passed
through this emporium, which abutted on a dank steam-
ing little court, and up the narrow stair to the two-pair

The shoemaker was at work with his recovered tools,
and his wife was making woman's shoes (an inferior
branch of the business) by him. A shrivelled child was
lying on the bed in the corner of the room. There was
no bedstead, and indeed scarcely any furniture, save the
little table on which lay his tools and shoes a fair-haired,
lank, handsome young man, with a wife who may have


been pretty once, in better times, and before starvation
pulled her down. She had but one thin gown : it clung
to a frightfully emaciated little body.

Their story was the old one. The man had been in
good work, and had the fever. The clothes had been
pawned, the furniture and bedstead had been sold, and
they slept on the mattress ; the mattress went, and they
slept on the floor ; the tools went, and the end of all
things seemed at hand, when the gracious apparition of
the Curate, with his umbrella, came and cheered those
stricken-down poor folks.

The journeyman shoemaker must have been astonished
at such a sight. He is not, or was not, a church-goer.
He is a man of 'advanced' opinions; believing that
priests are hypocrites, and that clergymen in general
drive about in coaches-and-four, and eat a tithe-pig a
day. This proud priest got Mr. Crispin a bed to lie
upon, and some soup to eat; and (being the treasurer
of certain good folks of his parish, whose charities he
administers) as soon as the man was strong enough to
work, the Curate lent him money wherewith to redeem
his tools, and which our friend is paying back by instal-
ments at this day. And any man who has seen these
two honest men talking together, would have said the
shoemaker was the haughtier of the two.

We paid one more morning visit. This was with an
order for work to a tailor of reduced circumstances and
enlarged family. He had been a master, and was now
forced to take work by the job. He who had com-
manded many men, was now fallen down to the ranks
again. His wife told us all about his misfortunes. She
is evidently very proud of them. * He failed for seven
thousand pounds,' the poor woman said, three or four
times during the course of our visit. It gave her
husband a sort of dignity to have been trusted for so
much money.

The Curate must have heard that story many times,


to which he now listened with great patience in the
tailor's house a large, clean, dreary, faint-looking room,
smelling of poverty. Two little stunted yellow-headed
children, with lean pale faces and large protruding eyes,
were at the window staring with all their might at Guy
Fawkes, who was passing in the street, and making a
great clattering and shouting outside, while the luckless
tailor's wife was prating within about her husband's by-
gone riches. I shall not in a hurry forget the picture.
The empty room in a dreary background ; the tailor's
wife in brown, stalking up and down the planks, talking
endlessly ; the solemn children staring out of the window
as the sunshine fell on their faces, and honest Whitestock
seated, listening, with the tails of his coat through the

His business over with the tailor, we start again ;
Frank Whitestock trips through alley after alley, never
getting any mud on his boots somehow, and his white
neckcloth making a wonderful shine in those shady
places. He has all sorts of acquaintance, chiefly
amongst the extreme youth, assembled at the doors or
about the gutters. There was one small person occupied
in emptying one of these rivulets with an oyster-shell,
for the purpose, apparently, of making an artificial lake
in a hole hard by, whose solitary gravity and business air
struck me much, while the Curate was very deep in
conversation with a small-coalman. A half-dozen of her
comrades were congregated round a scraper and on a
grating hard by, playing with a mangy little puppy, the
property of the Curate's friend.

I know it is wrong to give large sums of money away
promiscuously, but I could not help dropping a penny
into the child's oyster-shell, as she came forward holding
it before her like a tray. At first her expression was
one rather of wonder than of pleasure at this influx of
capital, and was certainly quite worth the small charge
of one penny, at which it was purchased.


For a moment she did not seem to know what steps
to take ; but, having communed in her own mind, she
presently resolved to turn them towards a neighbouring
apple-stall, in the direction of which she went without a
single word of compliment passing between us. Now,
the children round the scraper were witnesses to the
transaction. * He's giv her a penny,' one remarked to
another, with hopes miserably disappointed that they
might come in for a similar present.

She walked on to the apple-stall meanwhile, holding
her penny behind her. And what did the other little
ones do ? They put down the puppy as if it had been
so much dross. And one after another they followed
the penny-piece to the apple-stall.



OUT of a mere love of variety and contrast., I think we
cannot do better, after leaving the wretched Whitestock
among his starving parishioners, than transport ourselves
to the City, where we are invited to dine with the
Worshipful Company of Bellows-Menders, at their
splendid Hall in Marrow-pudding Lane.

Next to eating good dinners, a healthy man with a
benevolent turn of mind must like, I think, to read
about them. When I was a boy, I had by heart the
Barmecide's feast in the 'Arabian Nights;' and the
culinary passages in Scott's novels (in which works there
is a deal of good eating) always were my favourites.
The Homeric poems are full, as everybody knows, of
roast and boiled : and every year I look forward with
pleasure to the newspapers of the loth of November
for the menu of the Lord Mayor's feast, which is sure


to appear in those journals. What student of history
is there who does not remember the City dinner given
to the Allied Sovereigns in 1814 ? It is good even
now, and to read it ought to make a man hungry, had
he had five meals that day. In a word, I had long long
yearned in my secret heart to be present at a City
festival. The last year's papers had a bill of fare com-
mencing with * four hundred tureens of turtle, each
containing five pints;' and concluding with the pine-
apples and ices of the dessert. * Fancy two thousand
pints of turtle, my love,' I have often said to Mrs. Spec,
'in a vast silver tank, smoking fragrantly, with lovely
green islands of calipash and calipee floating about
why, my dear, if it had been invented in the time of
Vitellius he would have bathed in it ! '

* He would have been a nasty wretch,' Mrs. Spec said,
who thinks that cold mutton is the most wholesome food
of man. However, when she heard what great company
was to be present at the dinner, the Ministers of State,
the Foreign Ambassadors, some of the bench of Bishops,
no doubt the Judges, and a great portion of the Nobility,
she was pleased at the card which was sent to her
husband, and made a neat tie to my white neckcloth
before I set off on the festive journey. She warned me
to be very cautious, and obstinately refused to allow me
the Chubb door-key.

The very card of invitation is a curiosity. It is almost
as big as a tea-tray. It gives one ideas of a vast enormous
hospitality. Gog and Magog in livery might leave it at
your door. If a man is to eat up that card, Heaven help
us, I thought ; the Doctor must be called in. Indeed, it
was a Doctor who procured me the placard of invitation.
Like all medical men who have published a book upon
diet, Pillkington is a great gourmand, and he made a
great favour of procuring the ticket for me from his
brother of the Stock Exchange, who is a Citizen and a
Bellows-Mender in his corporate capacity.


We drove in Pillkington's brougham to the place of
mangezvous, through the streets of the town, in the broad
daylight, dressed out in our white waistcoats and ties ;
making a sensation upon all beholders by the premature
splendour of our appearance. There is something grand
in that hospitality of the citizens, who not only give you
more to eat than other people, but who begin earlier than
anybody else. Major Bangles, Captain Canterbury, and
a host of the fashionables of my acquaintance, were
taking their morning's ride in the Park as we drove
through. You should have seen how they stared at us !
It gave me a pleasure to be able to remark mentally,
1 Look on, gents, we too are sometimes invited to the
tables of the great.'

We fell in with numbers of carriages as we were
approaching Citywards, in which reclined gentlemen
with white neckcloths grand equipages of foreign
ambassadors, whose uniforms, and stars, and gold lace
glistened within the carriages, while their servants with
coloured cockades looked splendid without : these
careered by the Doctor's brougham horse, which was a
little fatigued with his professional journeys in the
morning. General Sir Roger Bluff, K.C.B., and
Colonel Tucker, were stepping into a cab at the United
Service Club as we passed it. The veterans blazed in
scarlet and gold lace. It seemed strange that men so
famous, if they did not mount their chargers to go to
dinner, should ride in any vehicle under a coach-and-six ;
and instead of having a triumphal car to conduct them to
the City, should go thither in a rickety cab, driven by a
ragged charioteer smoking a dhoodeen. In Cornhill we
fell into a line, and formed a complete regiment of the
aristocracy. Crowds were gathered round the steps of
the old hall in Marrow-pudding Lane, and welcomed us
nobility and gentry as we stepped out of our equipages at
the door. The policemen could hardly restrain the
ardour of these low fellows, and their sarcastic cheers


were sometimes very unpleasant. There was one rascal
who made an observation about the size of my white
waistcoat, for which I should have liked to sacrifice him
on the spot ; but Pillkington hurried me, as the police-
men did our little brougham, to give place to a prodigious
fine equipage which followed, with immense grey horses,
immense footmen in powder, and driven by a grave
coachman in an episcopal wig.

A veteran officer in scarlet, with silver epaulets, and a
profuse quantity of bullion and silver lace, descended
from this carriage between the two footmen, and was
nearly upset by his curling sabre, which had twisted
itself between his legs, which were cased in duck
trousers very tight except about the knees (where they
bagged quite freely), and with rich long white straps. I
thought he must be a great man by the oddness of his

* Who is the General ? ' says I, as the old warrior,
disentangling himself from his scimitar, entered the
outer hall. * Is it the Marquis of Anglesey, or the Rajah
of Sarawak ? '

I spoke in utter ignorance, as it appeared. * That !
Pooh,' says Pillkington ; * that is Mr. Champignon,
M.P., of Whitehall Gardens and Fungus Abbey, Citizen
and Bellows-Mender. His uniform is that of a Colonel
of the Diddlesex Militia.' There was no end to similar
mistakes on that day. A venerable man with a blue and
gold uniform, and a large crimson sword-belt and brass-
scabbarded sabre, passed presently, whom I mistook for a
foreign ambassador at the least ; whereas I found out
that he was only a Billingsgate Commissioner and a
little fellow in a blue livery, which fitted him so badly
that I thought he must be one of the hired waiters of
the Company, who had been put into a coat that didn't
belong to him, turned out to be a real right honourable
gent, who had been a Minister once.

I was conducted upstairs by my friend to the gorgeous


drawing-room, where the company assembled, and
where there was a picture of George IV. I cannot
make out what public Companies can want with a
picture of George IV. A fellow with a gold chain, and
in a black suit, such as the lamented Mr. Cooper wore
preparatory to execution in the last act of ' George
Barnwell,' bawled out our names as we entered the
apartment. * If my Eliza could hear that gentleman,'
thought I, * roaring out the name of " Mr. Spec ! " in the
presence of at least two hundred Earls, Prelates, Judges,
and distinguished characters ! ' I made little impression
upon them, however ; and I slunk into the embrasure of
a window, and watched the company.

Every man who came into the room was, of course,
ushered in with a roar. * His Excellency the Minister of
Topinambo ! ' the usher yelled ; and the Minister
appeared, bowing, and in tights. 'Mr. Hoggin! The
Right Honourable the Earl of Bareacres ! Mr. Snog !
Mr. Braddle ! Mr. Alderman Moodle ! Mr. Justice
Bunker ! Lieutenant-General Sir Roger Bluff ! Colonel
Tucker ! Mr. Tims ! ' with the same emphasis and
mark of admiration for us all as it were. The Warden
of the Bellows-Menders came forward and made a pro-
fusion of bows to the various distinguished guests as
they arrived. He, too, was in a Court dress, with a
sword and bag. His lady must like so to behold him
turning out in arms and ruffles, shaking hands with
Ministers, and bowing over his wine-glass to their
Excellencies the Foreign Ambassadors.

To be in a room with these great people gave me a
thousand sensations of joy. Once, I am positive, the
Secretary of the Tape and Sealing- Wax office looked at
me and, turning round to a noble lord in a red ribbon,
evidently asked, c Who is that ? ' Oh, Eliza, Eliza !
How I wish you had been there ! or if not there, in
the ladies' gallery in the dining-hall, when the music
began, and Mr. Shadrach, Mr. Meshech, and little


Jack Oldboy (whom I recollect in the part of Count
Almaviva any time these forty years), sang * Non nobis,

But I am advancing matters prematurely. We are
not in the grand dining-hall as yet. The crowd grows
thicker and thicker, so that you can't see people bow as
they enter any more. The usher in the gold chain
roars out name after name : more ambassadors, more
generals, more citizens, capitalists, bankers among
them Mr. Rowdy, my banker, from whom I shrank
guiltily from private financial reasons and, last and
greatest of all, * The Right Honourable the Lord
Mavor ! '

That was a shock, such as I felt on landing at Calais
for the first time ; on first seeing an Eastern bazaar ; on
first catching a sight of Mrs. Spec ; a new sensation, in
a word. Till death I shall remember that surprise. I
saw over the heads of the crowd, first a great sword
borne up in the air : then a man in a fur cap of the
shape of a flower-pot ; then I heard the voice shouting
the august name the crowd separated. A handsome
man with a chain and gown stood before me. It was
he. He ? What do I say ? It was his Lordship. I
cared for nothing till dinner-time after that.


THE glorious company of banqueteers were now pretty
well all assembled ; and I, for my part, attracted by an
irresistible fascination, pushed nearer and nearer my
Lord Mayor, and surveyed him, as the Generals, Lords,
Ambassadors, Judges, and other big-wigs rallied round
him as their centre, and, being introduced to his Lord-
ship and each other, made themselves the most solemn


and graceful bows; as if it had been the object of that
General's life to meet that Judge; and as if that
Secretary of the Tape and Sealing- Wax Office, having
achieved at length a presentation to the Lord Mayor,
had gained the end of his existence, and might go home
singing a * Nunc dimittis.' Don Geronimo de Mulligan
y Guayaba, Minister of the Republic of Topinambo
(and originally descended from an illustrious Irish
ancestor, who hewed out with his pickaxe in the
Topinambo mines the steps by which his family have
ascended to their present eminence), holding his cocked
hat with the yellow cockade close over his embroidered
coat-tails, conversed with Alderman Codshead, that
celebrated statesman, who was also in tights, with a
sword and bag.

Of all the articles of the splendid Court-dress of our
aristocracy, I think it is those little bags which I admire
most. The dear crisp curly little black darlings !
They give a gentleman's back an indescribable grace
and air of chivalry. They are at once manly, elegant,
and useful (being made of sticking-plaster, which can be
applied afterwards to heal many a wound of domestic
life). They are something extra appended to men, to
enable them to appear in the presence of royalty. How
vastly the idea of a Court increases in solemnity and
grandeur when you think that a man cannot enter it
without a tail !

These thoughts passed through my mind, and
pleasingly diverted it from all sensations of hunger, while
many friends around me were pulling out their watches,
looking towards the great dining-room doors, rattling
at the lock (the door gaped open once or twice, and the
nose of a functionary on the other side peeped in among
us and entreated peace), and vowing it was scandalous,
monstrous, shameful. If you ask an assembly of English-
men to a feast, and accident or the cook delays it, they

Online LibraryWilliam Makepeace ThackerayComplete works (Volume 22) → online text (page 2 of 31)